Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) have been looking at data old and new to determine if speed limiters in commercial trucks could prevent accidents and save lives. A speed limiter is an electronic device installed into a vehicle’s engine computer that will cut off air and fuel flow to an engine once it determines the vehicle is traveling at the predetermined maximum speed; you might not know it but there’s likely a speed limiter in your car right now that stops you from going more than 110 or 120 miles per hour, despite the engine being able to do more. The newly conducted research looked at 20 fleets, more than 135,000 trucks, and about 15,000 truck accidents throughout the years.
The results of their study indicate that a speed limitation of:
- 60 miles per hour would save nearly 500 lives a year in the United States.
- 65 mph would save about 200 lives per year.
- 68 mph would still save close to 100 lives each year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has picked up the study’s conclusion, along with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), to push for new regulations that would authorize speed limiters. The findings in the VTTI/ATRI study coincide quite well with research conducted as far back as the 1970s. Many people are wondering, “If the benefits have been known since the 70s, why haven’t we used speed limiters yet?”
Concern Over Speed Differentials
People who oppose using speed limiters in big rigs cite potential dangers of speed differentials between the larger vehicles and the smaller ones that would be zipping around them. The notion is that if a truck is only going 60 miles per hour, a motorist traveling 70 mph and up would be more likely to plow into the back of the truck, especially if there was a sudden braking event. The concern has prompted the director of engineering services for the American Trucking Associations to propose a nationwide highway speed limit of 65 for all vehicles.
The NHTSA is insistent that speed differential concerns are largely unwarranted, and that the benefits of speed limiters far outweigh any speculated dangers. For every rear-end truck accident caused by a commercial truck moving slower than the rest of traffic, there could be dozens of other collisions prevented. Furthermore, a smaller car running into the back of a truck while following too closely may only experience an impact force equivalent to a slow-speed collision, due to the lesser weight of the car and the direction of the crash. Whereas a crash caused by a commercial truck going 70 mph or more will hit with a force 10, 20, or 30 times that strength, causing significantly more damage.
At this point, the study’s release is encouraging, as it is drawing attention to the issue. Even Transport Canada has chimed into the debate here in the States, citing that its own study in 2009 reached the same conclusion: speed limiters prevent crashes and save lives.
Have you been hit by a commercial truck that was speeding? File a personal injury claim with our Columbus truck accident lawyers at Rourke and Blumenthal LLC. Call 614.321.3212 or contact us online today.